My fellow citizens,
I communicate with you again, as promised, to share new information on the fronts of health and economy, to announce our new initiatives and extend, once more, a message of solidarity, discipline and responsibility.
Allow me to say this once again, as clearly as possible: the hardest part is still ahead of us. We have taken drastic measures, earlier than other countries, to mitigate the spread of the virus; however, we do not yet know how effective these are going to be.
The coming weeks are going to be decisive for our country. It is within our power to prove that they will indeed be hard and complicated, yet not gruesome. So, I ask you not to tear down all we have recently built.
In Italy, they hardly have coffins to bury their dead in. Yet, here, I’ve noted that some people show an unjustified complacency. I will not tolerate this.
Yes, we have every reason to be optimistic that science will prevail upon this pandemic earlier than we had anticipated. However, no miracle cure will emerge in the upcoming months.
We will rely on the strength of the National Health System, which is being reinforced at a fast pace: we are adding beds in hospitals and intensive care units, we are purchasing ventilators and consumables. Moreover, we are hiring 2,000 nurses and specialist doctors.
The private sector is operating under the strict guidance of the Ministry of Health. I thank all those who have shown up with significant donations at this difficult time, from the bottom of my heart. However, I also call upon those absent to ponder their responsibilities.
I also call upon the citizens to listen only to official announcements. Fake news are damaging both to physical and mental health.
We have nearly exhausted the arsenal of containment measures within the Government’s capacity. Affliction seeks the next link to spread further. And we can break this chain of horror if we take a step back. If we stay at home, avoiding all unnecessary contacts.
This weekend is an opportunity to demonstrate our social responsibility: since there will be no professional obligations, we won’t go out! We shall stay at home and read, listen to music, watch movies, communicate with our people, the people we love.
We shall go for a walk or a run, on our own. And in all events, we will avoid social gatherings.
It depends on us and on our conduct whether the Government will ultimately have to take even more drastic measures to restrict people’s movement.
One final note. The virus knows no borders or distances. The smallest the island where people resort to for protection, the hardest their health care will be, should they fall ill there -if not impossible.
My fellow citizens,
The months to come will also be very hard on the economy. Nevertheless, we now have more weapons in our arsenal to support the people in the labour force and production.
After ridding ourselves of the unbearable oversurpluses of the past, ECB’s decision yesterday includes our country in a programme of quantitative easing for the first time.
Finally, after 10 years of crisis, Greece is regarded to be exactly on the same level as other European countries.
This development makes it possible for us to implement a far more ambitious programme of supporting the real economy. This programme is going to be dynamic and determined by developments.
Today, I am announcing that the State budget is put under review. Therefore, apart from the measures already under way, which amount to 3.8 billion, another approximately 3 billion will be made available from the State budget for supporting the economy. And at least as much from the NSRF recasting process.
So, I’m talking about approximately 10 billion, apart from the estimates for providing additional liquidity to businesses from the financial tools available.
Consequently, today I am able to announce that the extra pay of 800 euro by end of April will also be extended to all those employed in businesses that are still in operation, albeit with decreased turnover.
This measure, therefore, does not just concern businesses which have suspended their operation, but rather the great majority of employees in the private sector. The State will also cover all social security contributions of such employees.
The bonus of 800 euro will also be received by all entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals in the country. The obligation of paying contributions will be suspended for them as well.
However, all professionals who were laid off or forced to resign from March 1st until yesterday will also receive the sum of 800 euro. We are taking care, first and foremost, of those who have borne the weight of the crisis first and most severely.
The Easter bonus will be paid in full by all employers to all employees, exactly as they are entitled to it. The precise time of its payment is to be announced by the Ministries with the corresponding shared competence.
In any case, an extraordinary Easter bonus will be received this year by the heroes in the green and white shirts: those working in the country’s hospitals and also Civil Protection employees, working night and day to keep us all healthy.
I would like to stress, yet again, that no one in our country is going to be alone, until this turmoil, too, shall pass.
And it is my own personal commitment to keep on fighting for a dual cause.
Our land’s greatest wealth is its people, the Greek men and women, and their health is my own prime concern.
However, their prosperity is also a priority. So, the Government will keep the seed of growth, which has already started to bear fruit, alive.
The day after may be better. And it will dawn brighter if we remain responsible and disciplined. United, yet at a distance from one another!
We stay at home, we remain optimistic, we remain resolved, and above all else we remain healthy!